India: Requirements and procedures to obtain a passport from abroad, particularly for Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987; requirements for a Tibetan to return to India from abroad (2017-May 2019)
1. Passport Application
According to an Office Memorandum issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs in September 2018, all Passport Issuing Authorities (PIA) in India and abroad have been
requested to process the [passport] applications received … from [Tibetan refugee] applicants born in India between [26 January 1950] and [1 July 1987] and their children  who have been declared Indian citizens under the Citizenship Act, 1955. (India 17 Sept. 2018)
The memorandum notes that the passport applications are subject to a "[p]re-police verification," but that if the PIA receives an "[a]dverse" remark on the verification report due to the applicant being a child of a Tibetan refugee, the PIA is directed to treat the verification report as "[c]lear" and issue the Indian passport (India 17 Sept. 2018). The memorandum issued by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is attached to this Response (Attachment 1).
According to the website of the Consulate General of India in Toronto, the following is required when applying for a new passport or a re-issue of a passport:
Duly filled in online application form ….
Two recent photographs of size (2 inch x 2 inch) with plain white background and the dress in preferably in colours offering contrast with background for clarity.
Original passport of the applicant.
A copy of first and last page of the current passport.
A copy of legal status in Canada (PR card/study permit/work permit/visitor record).
A copy of landing paper.
A copy of proof of address (copy of driving license or any other government[-]issued address proof).
Two copies of duly filled in Personal Particulars Form.
A copy of Annexure "E": Annexure E form.
Issue of New Passport / Re-issue of Passport having validity of 10 years: C$100 (for a 36-page booklet) + C$3 ([c]onsular surcharge) + BLS C$7.40 including tax (which is also applicable for minor within the age group of 15-18 years).
2 - 3 weeks[.]
Applicant has to come in person.
The applicant must provide Passport, PR card/Landing paper or any other related document in original for verification.
All copies of documents should be self[-]attested (sign[ed and] date[d]).
Additional documents may be needed for verification depending upon the documents submitted.
In case your PR card is issued after [1 January 2015] or not producing any category, a copy of landing paper is also required. (India n.d.a)
A blank copy of the Application Form for Indian Passport at an Indian Mission/Post, as provided on the Online NRI [Non-resident Indian and person of Indian origin] Passport Application site, is attached to this Response (Attachment 2).
According to the September 2018 memorandum, passport applications "may be processed by PIAs subject to the following":
- [The Tibetan refugee] will surrender the Identity Certificate [(IC)] and/or Refugee/Registration Certificate (RC) at the concerned Passport Seva Kendra (PSK)/Passport Office [(PO)] where the passport application is submitted along with other documents. [If the RC has already been surrendered at the FRO/FRRO , the Tibetan refugee applicant will submit the Surrender Certificate issued by the FRO/FRRO].
- In cases where RC is surrendered at the PSK/PO, these will be sent to FRO/FRRO by the concerned RPO [Regional Passport Office]/PO for cancellation. In case of ICs, the same will be sent to [the] concerned RPO for cancellation.
- When IC and/or RC is surrendered at the PSK/PO, [the Tibetan refugee] applicant would be issued a [c]ertificate by concerned RPO stating that RC/IC No. dated ….. has been surrendered on …… by Shri ………. consequent upon his applying for an Indian passport.
- [The Tibetan refugee] should not be staying in any of the designated Tibetan [r]efugee settlements nor enjoying any CTA [Central Tibetan Administration] benefits or subsidies after receipt of an Indian passport. Such an applicant should, therefore, furnish an undertaking/declaration as per the attached Annexure, to the effect that he will not be staying in any Tibetan [r]efugee settlement nor enjoying any CTA benefits, privileges or subsidies once an Indian passport is issued to him. (India 17 Sept. 2018, some square brackets in original)
According to an article in the Tibet Sun, an online Tibetan news site "aimed at safeguarding the national interest of Tibet and the Tibetan people" and operated by Lobsang Wangyal  (Tibet Sun n.d.), Tibetans in India applying for a passport after the issuance of the September 2018 memorandum are being told to return to the passport office after their RC and IC have been sent to the relevant FRO for cancellation of their RC, contrary to the directions in the memorandum (Tibet Sun 1 Oct. 2018). One applicant in Shimla is quoted as stating the following: "'[the passport office] [did not] have any idea how and when I will be informed about the RC cancellation by the FRO. The wait seems to be long'" (Tibet Sun 1 Oct. 2018). The same article further indicates an applicant from the Bandhara Tibetan settlement, born in 1978 in India, was informed she was not eligible for the Indian passport because her parents were not born in India between 1950 and 1987 (Tibet Sun 1 Oct. 2018). Further and corroborating information on cases of Tibetans obtaining the Indian passport after issuance of the September 2018 memorandum could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
2. Returning to India
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which "functions as the nodal agent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration" (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama n.d.), stated that Tibetans holding a valid IC with a "No objection to return to India" (NORI) stamp require a return visa to return to India (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). The representative further indicated that since July 2018, the IC is known as the Certificate of Identity (COI) and is issued without the NORI stamp, which is no longer used (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). For further information on ICs and NORI stamps, see Response to Information Request IND105024 of December 2014.
The representative of the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama indicated that a one-year multiple entry return visa is required for IC/COI holders to travel abroad, including for Tibetans who are already abroad, to return to India (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). According to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, quoted in a memorandum issued by the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetan refugees leaving India for fifteen days or less are not required to apply for an exit visa, but are required to have a one-year multiple entry return visa (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 20 Mar. 2019). The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, quoted on the CTA website, indicates the one-year multiple entry return visa will be given to Tibetan migrants whose "cases are recommended by" the CTA (CTA 20 Dec. 2017). The representative of the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained that the following documents are required to apply for a return visa:
- COI or IC;
- Pre-booked plane ticket;
- Support letter from the respective Tibetan settlement office or the CTA; and
- A photograph (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 2 June 2019).
Without providing further information, the representative indicated that the processing time for the return visa "should not take more than the normal visa processing duration"  (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). The same source noted that Indian missions will issue the return visa to Tibetans already abroad, regardless of the remaining validity period of their IC (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). The representative further indicated that they have not received any complaints from Tibetans living abroad with a valid COI or IC facing difficulties in obtaining a return visa to India, and that those applying from within India "do not face any difficult[ies] in getting [a] return visa," while also noting that there could be a delay or "outright rejection" if there is a "discrepancy" with the required documents or if there is a delay in receiving the "No objection report" from the regional FRO due to "poor connectivity or remoteness of the area" (Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama 30 May 2019). Further and corroborating information on obtaining the return visa from abroad could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The CTA website indicates, in an article published in October 2018, that "foreigners" can apply for the exit and return visa online through the FRRO website without visiting the office in person (CTA 5 Oct. 2018). The e-FRRO website states that applicants will not be required to visit the FRRO office [in person], except "in certain exceptional cases" for which the FRRO requires an interview (India n.d.b). The same source further indicates the following requirements and procedures to apply for visas online:
- A valid e-mail and mobile number in India is required to register on the website (India n.d.c);
- The applicant submits the application form and uploads required documents and a photograph through the website (India n.d.c);
- A visa officer reviews the application and provides further instructions, including fee payment or re-uploading of required documents, to the applicant by e-mail or text message (India n.d.c);
- The applicant receives the visa by mail at the address indicated on the application form and by e-mail (India n.d.b).
The FRRO website states that applicants should apply "at least" two weeks in advance (India n.d.d). Further information on obtaining a return visa from within India could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
 Children of Tibetan refugees who are considered eligible for the Indian Passport are as follows:
- Every [Tibetan refugee] born in India on or after [1 July 1987], but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and both or either of whose parents [Tibetan refugees] [were] born in India between [26 January 1950] and [1 July 1987] ….
- Every [Tibetan refugee] born in India on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and [both of whose] parents [Tibetan refugees] born in India between [26 January 1950] and [1 July 1987] or one of whose parents [Tibetan refugees] born in India between [26 January 1950] and [1 July 1987] and the other is not an illegal immigrant at the time of his [or her] birth. (India 17 Sept. 2018)
 The Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or the Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) is responsible for registering foreigners visiting India for more than 180 days (India n.d.e).
 Lobsang Wangyal filed the court case which led to the High Court decision finding Tibetans born in India between  January 1950 and  July 1987 are considered Indian citizens by birth and eligible for Indian passports (Reuters 21 June 2017; Hindustan Times 26 June 2017).
 An August 2018 Tibet Sun article indicates that prior to switching to a new online application system, obtaining exit and return visas in India took approximately one week in Dharamshala and approximately three months in South India, but that processing times were unknown for applications through the new online system (Tibet Sun 1 Aug. 2018). According to the Bureau of Immigration of India, processing the return visa requires a "minimum" of two working days (India n.d.e).
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 2 June 2019. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 30 May 2019. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 20 March 2019. Tsering Dhondup. Regarding Exit Permit and Return Visa. (BDL/SEC/C-10/2018-19/109) [Accessed 5 June 2019]
Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 10 June 2019]
Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 5 October 2018. Tenzin Saldon. "Important Notice: Return Visa/Exit Permit Can Now Be Obtained Online, Hassle Free on E-FRRO Website." [Accessed 5 June 2019]
Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 20 December 2017. Jamphel Shonu. "Indian Government Streamlines Stay and Travel Regulations for Tibetans in India." [Accessed 21 May 2019]
Hindustan Times. 26 June 2017. Naresh K. Thakur. "Govt Sets Conditions for Tibetans to Get Passports, Says Move Out of Settlements, Forgo Benefits." [Accessed 10 June 2019]
India. 17 September 2018. Ministry of External Affairs. "Office Memorandum." No. VI/441/01/16 Vol. VI. [Accessed 6 June 2019]
India. N.d.a. Consulate General of India, Toronto, Canada. "New Passport Re-issue of Passport." [Accessed 6 June 2019]
India. N.d.b. Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration. "About e-FRRO." e-FRRO Online Portal. [Accessed 6 June 2019]
India. N.d.c. Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration. "How to Apply." e-FRRO Online Portal. [Accessed 6 June 2019]
India. N.d.d. Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration. "Important Instructions." e-FRRO Online Portal. [Accessed 6 June 2019]
India. N.d.e. Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Immigration. "General Instructions for Registration by the Foreigners." [Accessed 6 June 2019]
Reuters. 21 June 2017. Abhishek Madhukar and Rina Chandran. "Sixty Years After Fleeing Tibet, Refugees in India Get Passports, Not Property." [Accessed 10 June 2019]
Tibet Sun. 1 October 2018. Lobsang Wangyal. "Tibetans Continue to Face Roadblocks in Applying for Indian Passport." [Accessed 7 June 2019]
Tibet Sun. 1 August 2018. "India Scraps NORI for Tibetans Travelling Abroad." [Accessed 13 June 2019]
Tibet Sun. N.d. Lobsang Wangyal. "About Tibet Sun." [Accessed 7 June 2019]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Canada Tibet Committee; India – High Commission in Ottawa; International Campaign for Tibet; law professor who conducted research on Tibetan refugees in India; The Office of Tibet in Washington, DC; Tibet Justice Center.
Internet sites, including: ecoi.net; Factiva; India Visa and Passport Application Centre, Canada; Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses; The Hindu; Phayul.com; Tibetan Journal; Tibetan Review; The Times of India; UN – Refworld.
- India. 17 September 2018. Ministry of External Affairs. "Office Memorandum." No. VI/441/01/16 Vol. VI. <> [Accessed 6 June 2019]
- India. N.d. Ministry of External Affairs. Application Form for Indian Passport at an Indian Mission/Post. <> [Accessed 10 June 2019]